Hot Cuts (Birdtown and Swanville) 2018 SummerWorks Review

Photo by Slater Manzo

Hot Cuts, written and directed by Aurora Stewart de Peña and presented by Birdtown and Swanville at the 2018 SummerWorks Festival as a workshop presentation, reminds me of a moment in that most ‘80s of ‘90s movies, The Wedding Singer. Both that movie and this play have a great deal of fun with their over-the-top ‘80s style and references, though the play deals with the vagaries of small-town mall hairdressing rather than small-potatoes wedding performance.

The Wedding Singer, mostly fluff and sparkle, surprises with a bizarre, painful moment where the lead character has a rage-fueled existential meltdown in song. Though there’s no singing in Hot Cuts, it’s that feeling of existential menace that simmers constantly under the surface of the show, in an intriguing and uncomfortable way.

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The Artist’s Children (NTS Drama Festival and SummerWorks) 2018 SummerWorks Review

Photo from The Artist's Children, Summerworks 2018

In the SummerWorks program it said that The Artist’s Children by Liv Hussey would receive ‘a play workshop reading’. I interpreted that as a staged reading. I’ve enjoyed the staged readings that I’ve seen in the past so chances were I would like this. I did. It doesn’t feel appropriate to review a reading but it was lovely and I was glad I was there.

It was presented by SummerWorks in partnership with The NTS Drama Festival – Ontario, formerly Sears Ontario Drama Festival. It’s an annual adjudicated student drama festival. Hussey was in high school when she wrote the play for which she won awards in the 2018 festival. Continue reading The Artist’s Children (NTS Drama Festival and SummerWorks) 2018 SummerWorks Review

The Private Life of the Master Race (Theatre ARTaud) 2018 SummerWorks Review

Theatre ARTaud presents a night of Das Kabarett in the form of a variety show, The Private Life of the Master Race directed by Esther Jun, on stage at the 2018 SummerWorks Festival. The show is based on the Bertold Brecht classic anti-Nazi play Fear and Misery of the Third Reich.

Like the Brechtian play, this production features a series of vignettes exploring life in 1930’s Socialist Germany from the lives of average workers to families close to the government trying to keep their heads above water. In between in vignette, magic, burlesque and musical interludes are there to entertain.

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b side (Molly Johnson + Meredith Thompson) 2018 Summerworks Review

Playing as part of the Summerworks Festival Lab Programming, b side is an unconventional piece that encourages audiences to explore the world around them and find life and artistry in things we walk by every day. Creative duo Molly Johnson and Meredith Thompson guide us through the half-hour using movement pieces interacting with the space. Though far from traditional theatre, it is a thoughtful and liberating experience.

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A Girl Lives Alone (Theatre Mischief) 2018 SummerWorks Review

Theatre Mischief‘s A Girl Lives Alone, playing at the 2018 Toronto SummerWorks Festival, is somewhere between a horror movie and a comedy; somewhere between Law and Order and Friends. Using many of the tropes that made vintage horror radio shows so enticing, in particular, the use of live sound effects, this show will make you hoot with laughter and keep you on the edge of your seat.

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Box 4901 (timeshare) 2018 SummerWorks Review

Photo of mail from Box 4091 at SummerWorks 2018

Are you old enough to remember ads in the personals, life before online dating? Brian Francis is. In Box 4091, part of SummerWorks, he answers 13 replies to an ad he placed in the London Free Press in 1992 when he was 21. He found the letters recently and reread them. He hadn’t responded to them at the time, for various reasons. To me, it’s amazing that he kept the letters in the first place.

Francis starts with some background about why he placed the ad, about how difficult it was to live in a house with four straight men, that it was hard to meet other men, and that he was only emerging from the closet, not everyone knew he was gay.

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Swim Team (Nowadays Theatre) 2018 SummerWorks Review

Photo from Swim Team at SummerworksSwim Team, a play by Jaber Ramezani, had it’s premier on Sunday at SummerWorks. In the program it says the play is “Inspired by real stories from the world of women’s sports in post-revolutionary Iran…”

The story follows a swimming coach who moves to a place with no water after her students drown in a swimming pool, and the three young women who want her to teach them to swim. Continue reading Swim Team (Nowadays Theatre) 2018 SummerWorks Review

A Room To Perform (Katie Lyle/Shelby Wright)/YES (Linnea Swan) 2018 SummerWorks Review

Photo of Linnea Swan by Tim Nguyen

A Room To Perform/YES, a double bill created by Katie Lyle and Shelby Wright and Linnea Swan respectively, and now playing at the 2018 SummerWorks Festival, is an interesting duo. Both pieces have to do with restrictions in dance, but one embraces the restrictions, while the other rebels against them. It’s hard to be the clinical rules-follower when the cool renegade shows up, so I feel the former show suffers a bit from the pairing, even if it holds its own.

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the aisha of is (Sasha John Technique) 2018 SummerWorks Review

Photo of Aisha Sasha John provided by the artist

the aisha of is, presented by Sasha John Technique and performed by Aisha Sasha John at the 2018 SummerWorks Festival, is one of those performance pieces that you just have to cheerfully admit is not created for you, and that’s okay.

The only thing is, I’m not completely sure who it’s for. Primarily, it feels like hallmarks of mystifying ritual that culminate in a cathartic experience for a committed performer; a ritual that, for the most part, I was only allowed to glimpse.

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Adrenaline (Theatre Mada) 2018 SummerWorks Review

Photo of Ahmad Meree in Adrenaline at 2018 Summerworks

On Saturday afternoon I saw 35 minutes of amazing, heartrending, theatre performed in Arabic with English subtitles. Adrenaline is produced by Theatre Mada in Kitchener, a collective of Arab theatre artists living in the Waterloo Region, and is part of SummerWorks.

I watch movies and TV with subtitles often, probably about 20% of the time. For some reason, it never occurs to me to see theatre in languages other than English or French. I guess I assume there wouldn’t be subtitles. I don’t know why I’d assume that. Continue reading Adrenaline (Theatre Mada) 2018 SummerWorks Review